Post mortem: Aston Villa outclass Liverpool at Anfield and O'Neill gets it right

Morning all, that was fun last night, wasn't it and you know what, Liverpool didn't exactly have an off night, I just think we are a much better team playing 4-5-1 and we looked it, especially in the second half when Liverpool were roared on by The Kop and the pressure really was constant.

But, we did exactly what the formation suggested. We attacked well, we defended well and looked more of a cohesive unit and had more solid. You might even say we were more together last night as a team and because of it, our players looked better. Because of all that, we picked up our third victory against one of the top four in forty-two matches.

I'm going to look at that in more and a few other things at the end of the post and I'll apologise now for bringing it up for the 184th time, but I hope it will be the last, but that is up to Mr O'Neill. For now, we have the regular things to look at, starting with the papers.

What The Papers Say

Phil Thomas, The Sun
And while Villa may have been a tad fortunate to sneak into the lead in the first place, do not let anyone tell you this result was all down to good luck. Not a bit of it.
Sam Wallace, The Independent
Fabio Capello was in the stand but there was no Emile Heskey to watch, he has become a luxury that O'Neill could no longer afford as he returned to the 4-5-1 system with Gabriel Agbonlahor on his own up front. This time O'Neill's team needed to be solid and they rode their luck in the early stages but then Villa have had precious little good fortune of late. Brad Friedel was brilliant for Villa. He made an improbable save from Gerrard in a ninth-minute scramble which seemed destined for the Villa net as the pressure grew in the early stages.
Andy Hunter, The Guardian
Not since Carlos Tevez scored at the Kop end in December 2007 had Liverpool fallen at Anfield in the Premier League, a sequence stretching back 31 games and this defeat will bring fresh soul-searching for Benítez. Two defeats in the opening three games of a season of such promise represents a sorry state, although for Martin O'Neill, himself charged with recovering from a languid opening, the night was as restorative as it was unexpected.
Oliver Kay, The Times
Villa were well worth their win, if not in terms of shots on goal then certainly in terms of attitude and application. Brad Friedel, the former Liverpool goalkeeper, might have felt at times that this was a one-man crusade, but he was well served by a strong team effort, which featured impressive contributions in midfield from Stiliyan Petrov, Steven Sidwell and Nigel Reo-Coker, and which culminated in the 74th minute with Ashley Young keeping his nerve to score the decisive third goal from the penalty spot.

The Manager

No mention of the formation, but he also shouldn't have to talk about it, I think he knows now this is better for us.

Martin O'Neill
I just felt we were excellent. It's a tough place to come. I don't know if the lads had any thoughts in their heads about the last time we played but there was a great focus in the team. It's an enormous boost to us. You are under pressure constantly here no matter who you may be and to get that second goal in terms of confidence gave us a great lift.

In the second-half we knew there was going to be great pressure. But I felt we always had the ability to conjure up something else because there are goals in the team. I thought we defended very strongly in midfield as well. Just the overall effort of the team was there for all to see.

The Players

Liverpool (4-4-1-1): J Reina — G Johnson, J Carragher, M Skrtel, E Insúa — J Mascherano, Lucas Leiva (A Voronin, 66min), D Kuyt, S Gerrard, Y Benayoun (R Babel, 75) — F Torres. Substitutes not used: D Cavalieri, M Kelly, D Ayala, A Dossena, A Riera. Booked: Reina, Skrtel, Torres.

Aston Villa (4-5-1): B Friedel — H Beye, C Cuéllar, C Davies, N Shorey — S Petrov, J Milner, S Sidwell, N Reo-Coker, A Young (E Heskey, 80) — G Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: B Guzan, S Lowry, C Gardner, M Albrighton, F Delph, N Delfounesco. Booked: Young, Reo-Coker.

Man of the Match

This was an easy choice and judging by the results we managed to get in the few hours I kept it up, most agreed. Nigel Reo-Coker picked up 59.9% of the vote and well, it was deserved last night, he looked very good. Sorry, very good isn't a good enough word for how he looked last night, he was excellent.

Up Next: Europa LDV

It's at home, they are no mugs, but we will have momentum and hopefully an extra player or two to bring in. Thursday will be a good night and if we can carry that momentum through to Sunday, we should look at getting points then too. It's all about momentum, continuity and, dare I say it, 4-5-1.

Final Analysis

Right, where do I begin. Everyone looked good last night and it's not often I write this next bit; nobody looked bad. Gabby excelled as the lone striker, getting down the channels, pulling defenders with him and if O'Neill let's him finally develop in this formation he will only get better.

In fact, the one player that looked like he went missing a bit was Ashley Young, but when asked to, he did his job and Liverpool did play close attention to him, so it' snot his fault and his effort and work rate, were second to no player last night.

All of the defenders looked much better and that is because they had the extra support in front of them. Davies and Cueller didn't have to deal with a free man coming through and most was coming through on the floor because our five man midfield were quick to close down Liverpool, not giving them the chances.

Nick Shorey, who only got one vote for man of the match also had a good match. Want to know why? Well, it wasn't because of him, it was because of the five man midfield. He basically did everything the same as he usually does, but this time he wasn't make to look silly because there was cover and him setting up two of the goals was the icing on the cake for him and I can't remember, but it was down the left, was he involved in the first too?

But, man of the match Nigel Reo-Coker is going to get most of the plaudits today, but he'll get them because of Stan Petrov and Steve Sidwell. Reo-Coker was made to look good by the other two; they gave him the confidence to run box to box and not have to worry about the detail. On his runs, he also broke up attacks and hassled defenders and ultimately showed why we have to play five in the middle; it makes all the players look good.

I know I've banged this 4-5-1 drum for far too long, but we absolutely have to play it on Thursday and we have to continue playing it because it works and we will only get better the more we play it.

Right, I'm waiting for some new signings today. I'm expecting Distin to join Everton but I fancy Warnock is coming and maybe another one or two, but I think they have to come in soon.